By Patrick B. McGuigan
OKLAHOMA CITY – The Democratic Party of Oklahoma will hold its annual Carl Albert fund-raising dinner, the state convention, and related events this weekend.
Highlights at the convention will include consideration of a proposal from a two-time party nominee for Congress to open the primary and runoff process to Independent voters. Additionally, the customary election of party leadership will take place at the convention.
Keynote speaker for the dinner will be Governor Dan Malloy of Connecticut.
Highlighting the Carl Albert Dinner will be the induction of five of the party faithful as members of the Democratic Activist Hall of Fame. Honorees will include Christy Breedlove, presently Democratic party alternate on the Tulsa County Election Board; former state Sen. Kenneth Corn; Third Congressional District party leaders Mack Miller; Charles “Chuck” Allen, former chairman for the Eastern Oklahoma County Democrats; and Jenny Thompson, a member of the state party Central Committee.
Also being honored at the Carl Albert Dinner is Jim Townsend, along with Jack and Linda Farley.
Townsend, a former member of the state Corporation Commission, was last year honored as Man of the Year by Pottawatomie County Democrats. Townsend waged eight legislative campaigns, and ran statewide three times.
After retiring from the Commission in 1991, Townsend served as Interim Director of the Department of Pollution Control. He has also served as the Governor’s official representative to the Oil and Gas Compact Commission. He is most famous for his moving patriotic introductions prior to leading the pledge to the American flag.
The Farleys are part of legendary family of Oklahoma journalists, advertising specialists, who together owned and operated L.L. James Printing in Oklahoma City, and loyal Democrats and Union supporters. Jack, who passed away in October 2014, served as secretary for the Oklahoma Democratic Party’s Veterans Committee and was honored with their Veteran of the Year Award.
Linda is continuing the business and helping to keep their dreams and those of other Democrats alive. Their company slogan is “We Print For Democrats, Unions, and Friends.”
The dinner lifts up the memory of the late Carl Albert, who served as Speaker of the U.S. House. Known as “the little Giant from Little Dixie,” the diminutive speaker is the highest-ranking federal official ever to come from Oklahoma.
The State Convention is slated for Saturday (May 30) at Oklahoma City Community College, 7777 S. May Avenue, Oklahoma City, OK 73159.
As a two-time nominee (and three-time candidate) for the Fifth Congressional District post, the convention is expected to seriously consider Tom Guild’s proposal that the party formally “invite registered Independents to vote in Democratic primaries.” While the idea has drawn some opposition, it has support from numerous past and present elected officials.
Guild has some clout in party circles – including his achievement of the highest vote total for any nominee in recent decades.
Supporters include The Brennan Institute, Change Oklahoma, and the Brennan Society, former Governors Brad Henry and David Walters, former Attorney General Drew Edmondson, Senate Minority Leader Randy Bass of Lawton, House Minority Leader Scott Inman of Del City, Reps. George Young and Shane Stone of Oklahoma City, and Emily Virgin of Norman.
Grassroots leaders backing the idea are Susan McCann; Ismat Esrar, incoming Oklahoma County Democratic Party Chair Joe Hartman, Cleveland County Democratic Chair Matt Caban, many of the candidates for party leadership, philanthropist and activist Bob Lemon, 2014 gubernatorial candidate Joe Dorman, and activists Dennis Wilhite, Patricia Al-Sharif, and 2014 candidate for lieutenant governor, Cathy Cummings.
In addition to the anticipated debate over the proposed expansion of party primaries and runoffs to permit participation of registered independents, important decisions will be made concerning party leadership for the coming election cycle.
Candidates for the vice-chair’s position include Earl Mitchell, Jr., a Payne County party leader; also running is former state Sen. Constance “Connie” Johnson, now the chair of the Oklahoma Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty.
Secretary candidates for the party include the incumbent, David Ratcliff, and Stephen Covert. For the treasurer’s post, incumbent Donna Russell wants to keep the job.
Affirmative Action candidates include Victor Gorin, Anthony Douglass and Teresa Hill.
The annual Carl Albert event is slated for the Tower Hotel, 3323 NW Expressway (formerly the Marriott Northwest). Tickets for the 7 p.m. fundraising dinner run $100 a person; $250 for the chairman’s reception at 6 p.m.